Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone in your team is frequently less proactive or busy than you?
Every time you look over at their computer screens, they’re surfing the web, catching up on the sports results, or sharing photos on social media. All the while, you’re frantically working on your own tasks, while picking up theirs as well, and they don’t even seem to care!
Arguably, a worse situation is when the lazy person in question is your boss. Perhaps he delegates menial work to you because he has other commitments (or because – you suspect – he doesn’t want to do it himself). However, far from being busy, all he seems to do is take coffee breaks, shoot the breeze on the phone with his girlfriend, and make personal appointments!
It's particularly tricky getting slack colleagues to buck their ideas up when you’re not their manager. If you tackle them about it directly, they might argue that you don't have the authority to tell them what to do, and you could risk your relationship turning sour. And when it comes to your manager, if you approach him in the wrong way, you could end up damaging your long-term career prospects at your organization.
In the past, I have been in a situation where a colleague of mine didn’t pull her weight. She was working temporarily before going back to college, and just didn’t have the same drive and commitment as the rest of the team. Her timekeeping was poor, she often did only the bare minimum to get by, and I was invariably left to pick up the pieces.
The way I tackled it was through my boss. At the end of our weekly one-on-one, I mentioned I was snowed under with work because I’d had to do some extra research on a project, which he'd asked my colleague to do. I also slipped into the conversation that she’d been late a couple of times that week, and suggested he ask her if anything was wrong. Gently raising these couple of points prompted my manager to bring the matter to her attention. I don’t know what he said to her but, after that, we didn’t have any further problems.
We recently asked for your suggestions about “how to tackle colleagues who don’t pull their weight” on social media, and we received some interesting responses via Twitter and Facebook, so thanks very much for your contributions!
@txellet recommends addressing the "laziness" issue with the person in question. Perhaps the idle colleague is doing a task that is too challenging, or she doesn’t know how to do it, so she passes it on to someone who can. Rather than being lazy, her behavior might just be because she doesn't want to admit she can’t do something. In which case, you can offer to help her.
@Intrapreneur suggests being candid with the person, but doing so sensitively and one-on-one. He may have some personal issues, which is why it’s better to approach him tentatively. The worst thing would be to go in all guns blazing, accusing him of being lazy, if he was actually suffering from illness or a trauma in his life.
Mbadugha Peter also emphasizes the importance of tackling the issue privately, as well as that managers should make a conscious effort to appreciate those who consistently pick up other people’s slack. A simple “thank you” to team members who help others and take on additional duties goes a long way.
Finally, Yean-nee Shortland posted that whoever tackles the issue should explain to the individual about the importance of teamwork, such as sharing responsibilities, pulling together, and being supportive of your colleagues. Without this, you’re just a collection of people pulling in different directions rather than a team coming together with the same goal in mind.
If you have any suggestions about how to tackle colleagues who aren’t pulling their weight, we’d love to hear your #mindtoolstips. Share your stories below!
"Get yourself a notebook. Every day, write down three problems that you observe. This can be the place where you drive and foment your own change."
Is paternity leave working? How do new fathers feel about it? I spoke to some parents at Mind Tools to find out.
How can managers and leaders make returning from maternity leave easier for working mothers? I spoke to some parents at Mind Tools to find out.